Monday, January 26, 2015

BMW i3 Super Bowl Commercial "Newfangled Idea" Released



Even though the Super Bowl is still about a week away, today BMW released the 60 second i3 commercial which will air during the big game.

The commercial begins with a flashback to a live filming of NBC's Today Show in 1994 with Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel Talking about the internet. They have absolutely no idea what it is or how one might use it. They even can't agree on what the "@" symbol on a keyboard means. It's really hard to imagine this, since in the 21 years that have passed since this was filmed, the internet has integrated its way into all of our lives so much it is difficult to image life without it.

That's the whole point of the commercial. Things that seem foreign to us today may be the norm very soon in today's rapidly evolving world of technology. After the flashback, Katie and Bryant are sitting in an i3, and their conversation sounds very much like the one they had 21 years ago, struggling to understand what the i3 is and even how it was made. At one point Bryant looks out the window at a cyclist who is waiting next to them and says, "Katie said she thought this was a car," inferring that he doesn't even know what to call it.

I must admit, the first time I watched it I was a little disappointed. I was so excited when I heard BMW bought a full 60 second commercial during the Super Bowl just for the i3, and I immediately began to imagine what angle they might use. I was hoping for something that expressed how much fun the car is, how people just love to drive it, and how easy they could integrate the electric lifestyle into their life. I've been critical of all of the automaker's marketing efforts when it comes to their electric vehicle offerings. I don't believe anyone has really captured the essence of driving electric or why someone might consider getting their first electric car. So in my mind this was the angle I was hoping BMW went for. I also had a little fear they would just go entirely the sustainability angle, at which point I may have just banged my head on the kenaf fiber dashboard of my i3 until I was unconscious.

So I was a little surprised when I watched the commercial, but then I watched it a couple more times and I started to see why this may indeed have been the proper angle to take. No, it's not as heartwarming as the Clydesdale horses in the Budweiser spots, or even as cool as Leonard Nimoy's Audi commercial from last year, yet it does drill home the point it was trying to. Electric mobility is on the verge of becoming mainstream, and even though it may seem foreign to most people today, in only a short period of time they will wonder why they were ever living without it. I can live with that. Well done BMW.  Hit or miss; what do you think? Leave your opinions below in the comments section.

Bonus clip: The making of the commercial with Katie Curic, Bryant Gumbel and BMW's Trudy Hardy interviews.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

BMW Partners With Volkswagen & ChargePoint. Announces Beginning of Large Scale CCS Fast Charge Rollout in US


Today at the DC Auto Show, BMW announced they have partnered with Volkswagen and ChargePoint to begin what will be the largest roll out of CCS Fast Charge stations in the US. This first phase will consist of the installation of roughly 100 CCS Fast Charge stations, split between the East and West Coasts. 

On the East coast, there will be locations approximately every 50 miles between Washington DC and Boston, and on the West coast the new "CCS Highway" will span from San Diego, CA all the way to Portland OR. All of these locations will feature 50kW dual-head Fast Charge stations, including CHAdeMO charging capabilities as well as CCS. In addition, these locations will have multiple Level 2 ChargePoint EVSE's, allowing the user to "top off" once the vehicle reaches 80% state of charge from the DC fast charger. 

In addition to the "CCS Highway" locations, BMW is also going to install a network of their 24kW DC Fast Chargers at secondary locations which are somewhat off of the main arteries. 

I spoke with BMW infrastructure manager Rob Healey today and he wanted to stress how this announcement signifies only the beginning of the commitment that BMW and their partners have to proliferate the deployment of DC Fast charge infrastructure. He pointed to the fact that the decision to include CHAdeMO on all their 50kW locations on the East & West coast deployment indicates their commitment to the success of overall e-mobility, not just their plug-in offerings. Healey used the phrase that "a rising tide lifts all boats" and in this case I believe he's absolutely correct. 

BMW and their partners are still identifying locations and are working with public and private entities to secure locations that are a maximum of 50 miles apart. There isn't a set time frame on completion of this first phase but the installations have begun on the West Coast and will soon begin on the East. BMW has already installed three 24kW DC stations and four dual-head Level 2 charging stations at their North American Headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, NJ. I was even invited there to test them out with my i3 this week, which I did. All of these stations will be open to the public 24/7 and they already appear on the ChargePoint map. 


I believe this is a great first step for BMW and their partners with regards to DC fast charge, but it's only the first step. There will also be attention paid to the other areas of the country that aren't included in this announcement. It's a big country, and areas like Atlanta which have become EV hot spots aren't going to be ignored, but these two corridors were considered the most important ones to begin with. I also believe we're going to see even more collaboration between the OEMs. It's no secret BMW and Tesla have had discussions in the past, and in my opinion, installing CHAdeMO on all of their locations on the CCS Highway is extending a huge olive branch to Nissan. How great would it be if Nissan then turned around and said they will do the same thing now? This little detail could end up being the biggest thing to come out of the whole announcement...


Full Press release:

Washington, D.C., January 22, 2015 At the 2015 Washington Auto Show, two of the top automakers, BMW of North America and Volkswagen of America, together with ChargePoint, the largest electric vehicle charging network, announced an initiative to create express charging corridors along heavily-traveled routes on the East and West Coasts. Designed to increase the number of fast charging locations, the initiative will help meet the large and growing demand for convenient, publicly available electric vehicle fast chargers, including direct current (DC) Fast charging locations, and support the adoption of electric vehicles in the United States. In the initial phase, the aim is to install nearly 100 DC Fast charging ports across both coasts, with plans to expand the program to increase access to fast charging across the country. These newly installed DC Fast chargers will be added to the growing ChargePoint network of more than 20,000 charging spots in North America.

With more than 280,000 electric vehicles sold in the United States, EV owners need more charging flexibility while on the go. The express charging corridors will provide electric vehicle drivers access to DC Fast chargers along the most heavily populated and highly-trafficked regions on Interstate 95 on the east coast, from Boston to Washington, D.C., and on the west coast covering and connecting the metropolitan areas of Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. The installations will occur both within and between relevant metro areas, strategically-spaced at a maximum of 50 miles apart, making it even easier to take long road trips in an EV.

“A robust network of conveniently located DC Fast charging stations will go a long way toward increasing electric vehicle adoption and making electric vehicle ownership even more enjoyable,” said Robert Healey, Head of EV Infrastructure at BMW of North America. “The express charging corridors are another important step in the development of the U.S. e-mobility infrastructure that makes longer distance travel a real option for consumers, particularly along the most heavily trafficked portions of both coasts—making the BMW i3 and other electric vehicles even more appealing.”

“Volkswagen believes in a holistic approach to e-mobility in order to create a seamless experience for the consumer,” said Jörg Sommer, vice president, product marketing and strategy, Volkswagen of America. “The investment in the express charging corridor will provide e-Golf and other electric vehicle owners with the added support to travel their day-to-day and popular long distance routes.”

Each fast charging location along the express charging corridors is expected to include up to two 50 kW DC Fast chargers, or 24 kW DC Combo Fast chargers with the SAE Combo connector, used in both BMW and Volkswagen electric vehicles as well as many other electric vehicles that incorporate a DC Fast Charging capability. When charging at a 50 kW station, both the BMW i3 and the Volkswagen e-Golf can charge up to 80 percent in 20 minutes. Both vehicles can charge up to 80 percent in 30 minutes at a 24 kW station. Locations will also include Level 2 chargers, currently the most commonly available public charging stations, which are compatible with all electric vehicles. Level 2 stations can dispense up to 25 miles of range per hour of charging, providing a full charge for the BMW i3 and the VW e-Golf within 3.5 to 4 hours.

The DC Fast charging stations will be part of the ChargePoint network and can be easily accessed with a ChargePoint or ChargeNow card or with the ChargePoint mobile app.

“Our goal at ChargePoint is to get everyone behind the wheel of an EV and provide EV charging everywhere they go,” said Pasquale Romano, ChargePoint CEO. “With strategically-placed stations where drivers need them, these express charging corridors will give EV drivers the freedom to go farther and have an EV as their only car without limitation.”

Installations have already begun on the west coast, with the first location in San Diego County. There is a target of nearly 100 DC Fast charging ports in the first phase, available by the end of 2015. DC Fast chargers along the express charging corridors are expected to be installed in convenient locations such restaurants, shopping centers, rest stops, and more. ChargePoint will leverage its existing customer base and knowledge on usage to pick strategic locations either where drivers currently charge, or to fill in spaces where there is currently a lack of infrastructure.

With the investment, BMW, Volkswagen and ChargePoint are providing drivers with the ability and confidence to enjoy longer distance driving and recharge their electric vehicles quickly, ultimately leading to greater electric vehicle adoption. 


BMW Group In America
BMW of North America, LLC has been present in the United States since 1975.  Rolls-Royce Motor Cars NA, LLC began distributing vehicles in 2003.  The BMW Group in the United States has grown to include marketing, sales, and financial service organizations for the BMW brand of motor vehicles, including motorcycles, the MINI brand, and the Rolls-Royce brand of Motor Cars; DesignworksUSA, a strategic design consultancy in California; a technology office in Silicon Valley and various other operations throughout the country.  BMW Manufacturing Co., LLC in South Carolina is part of BMW Group’s global manufacturing network and is the exclusive manufacturing plant for all X5 and X3 Sports Activity Vehicles and X6 and X4 Sports Activity Coupes.  The BMW Group sales organization is represented in the U.S. through networks of 339 BMW passenger car and BMW Sports Activity Vehicle centers, 147 BMW motorcycle retailers, 122 MINI passenger car dealers, and 35 Rolls-Royce Motor Car dealers.  BMW (US) Holding Corp., the BMW Group’s sales headquarters for North America, is located in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.

About Volkswagen of America, Inc.
Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc., an operating unit of Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (VWoA) is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. VWoA’s operations in the United States include research and development, parts and vehicle processing, parts distribution centers, sales, marketing and service offices, financial service centers, and its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Volkswagen Group is one of the world's largest producers of passenger cars and Europe's largest automaker. VWoA sells the Beetle, Beetle Convertible, CC, Eos, e-Golf, Golf, Golf GTI, Jetta, Jetta SportWagen, Passat, Tiguan, and Touareg vehicles through approximately 651 independent U.S. dealers.

About ChargePoint
ChargePoint operates the world’s largest electric vehicle (EV) charging network, with more than 20,000 spots to plug in and charge. We are transforming the transportation industry by providing the charging stations, mobile apps, analytics and the charging network that allow property owners and drivers to benefit from EV charging. We are also transforming the energy industry by providing intelligent solutions to help people and businesses shift away from fossil fuels and use electricity more efficiently. Our mission is to get all drivers behind the wheel of an EV and provide them a place to charge whether at home, at work, around town or out-of-town. 

Over 165,000,000 gas-free miles have been driven on our network, and our drivers have collectively avoided more than 6.9 million gallons of gasoline and 51 million pounds of COemissions. Real-time network information is available through the ChargePoint app and in many top-selling EVs.